Last night I read this:
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Moment of silence while we reflect upon how awesome Jesus is/ was.
Today I continue writing about priests who have touched my life. Only because there are so many and I ran out of space yesterday.
I met this guy when I was a baby (read: senior in High School) standing in line to cancel a German class at the Community college. (Because, as I told my mother, I wanted to learn Polish, not German). He asked me for the time. I thought it was cute that there was a priest in the world who looked so similar to my brother Paul.
A week later I was sitting the basement of a local church, ready to hear a spiel about an event called “World Youth Day.” Who walks down the down the stairs to present said spiel, but the very priest who had asked me for the time a week earlier! The deal was set. He took my sister and me to Poland and Germany…and then, years later, Australia. He led us to a deeper understanding of the global church. He introduced us to his precious Polish parents. He sat on the floor with us AND CHEATED at cards. He showed me the horrors of Auschwitz and the wonder of the Divine Mercy image. He blew out his knee playing soccer with my sister.
In the summer of 2011, I took my own group to a European World Youth Day. We rode trains, flew between nations, and celebrated mass every day.
One day there was a mass for pilgrims from our Archdiocese. We went…and ran into Fr. Tomek. Fr. Tomek was there with a new group of young people.
I realized that that was once me, a young’un being introduced to travel, Catholicism, Jesus, and adventure thanks to Fr. Tomek. And, here I was–early twenties and transporting my own crowd through Europe.
He had taught me that the world was my friend, a place to be explored…and that I should never be afraid.
Sometimes you run into someone and you’re like, “You. Somehow you are so much like me…and so much what I want myself to be.”
I have three of these people. One is my college-bud’s grandmother. The other currently lives in Singapore. And then there’s Father Ryan.
I met him when he was a baby seminarian on retreat. I gave up my cell phone as a sacrifice that retreat…he gave up coconut syrup. (Yes. I’m still confused). We were consecrated on the same day, but since he’s an ORDAINED PRIEST he’s probably doing a better job at his consecration than I. Oh bother. (He would remind that I’m doing my best).
Last summer I was the lucky recipient of a personal retreat, led by Father Ryan. This was because I was driving him somewhere in my great state and made him listen to my problems for several hours while he asked me deep questions that I had never asked myself.
- “How does your heart best love?
- What is the plumbing of your heart?
- Do you notice that you smile when you talk about El Salvador but not when you talk about the other things you’re working with?
Perhaps the best, though, was when I was in confession.
(Side note: want intense?? Confess to your friends. Ouch.)
He said to me, “I give you the freedom to be negative. Go ahead and feel all of your feelings.”
You know something? I took it and ran (figuratively). And, I give myself much more freedom now. I give myself the freedom to try new things, to fail, to speak my mind.
I find myself offering other people more freedom, too. He taught me this.
God spoils Danielle with loving lessons and friends. This is a fact.
Fr. Ryan also told me to discern my vocation, though. I told him I’d go on a discernment retreat. Instead I went to a football game, starting writing a musical about discernment, and joined an acrobat class.
Fr. Ryan, if you read this, I never went on the retreat. You know what, though? I feel like those things were in line with my discernment process, OK? Perhaps you understand. You once gave up coconut syrup when we were supposed to be giving up our distractions at a retreat. Therefore: you understand the adventurous and creative and outside-the-box ways of our loving Heavenly Father.
Oh holy cow, this guy.
This one heard my confession nearly weekly for my entire High School experience.
He took my brothers on mission trips, joined us at the March for Life.
He accompanied us on the Camino de Santiago last year, singing songs, blazing ahead, settling our accommodations, and celebrating mass for us.
(There is a young man from the group who has now joined the seminary. He told me the daily masses Fr. Juan celebrated on the Camino impacted his life to that extent—to join seminary himself.)
Fr. Juan married my oldest brother last spring, telling the congregation stories about my brother’s life.
I can’t say I’ve ever had a heart-to-heart with Fr. Juan, which is interesting to me. I only know this: we are fellow-pilgrims on this journey called life and he’s on my side. He’s always ready to provide the spiritual graces I need…once I made him hear my confession at a concert in a stadium, another time he made me walk for an hour in silence on the Camino so I would have time for prayer, he’s always ready to share his latest adventure-story.
Oh, life, you are so interesting to me.
Oh, faith, you, too, are interesting to me.
And then, there it is: this story about Jesus that I read last night, where his heart is moved with pity because the people need to experience God’s love, but somehow they haven’t experienced it yet. Jesus asks for laborers. And, these men answered that call.
Sometimes I stare at priests during mass. I watch them kiss the altar and I know that they won’t go home and kiss their wives…because they’ve chosen a life of celibacy. I listen to them read the prayers and I look at the Franciscan-priest sandaled feet, knowing that the church buildings are probably the warmest places they’ll go that day; but they wear the sandals of poverty nonetheless.
Do priests wonder if people listen when they speak? Are priests also victims of church politics? Do people chew priests out for crazy things, too? (I work for the church, ya’ll. It’s a broken, beautiful place).
I have friends who are in seminaries across the world. Holy men, sure, preparing for the priesthood. But more than holy, they are human and they’ve experienced a Jesus they are compelled to follow.
I know that one day those seminarians will be ordained and they will see ugly sides of people and experience challenges. I wonder: if they knew all that, would they still choose the priesthood? Would THESE men who ARE ordained still have chosen the priesthood?
That I don’t know. What I do know is that sometimes Danielle is troubled and abandoned. And then these men come and remind me (in persona Christi) that, yes, God does love me. God seeks me. God cares about my life.
Fathers? I appreciate that you have answered this call. You are worthy laborers in the vineyard. My heart thanks you.